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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Former MD caregiver avoids jail time for neglect; SNAP responds

Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests 314 566 9790

We’re upset that Fleming isn’t going to be locked up for even a day. A jail sentence helps protect the vulnerable in two ways. First, for some length of time, it prevents a wrong doer from doing more wrong. Second, it can deter future wrongdoing by others. We’re often disappointed that some judges fail to understand these two simple, powerful facts, and give only parole or probation to those who harm the defenseless.

But we’re also disappointed that two priests sought leniency for a caregiver who put his vulnerable charges in harm’s way. Why do alleged spiritual figures in the Catholic church so often side with the powerful over the powerless?

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)

Former MD caregiver avoids jail time for neglect
By: DAVID DISHNEAU - The Associated Press - Wednesday June 2, 2010 01:04 PM

A judge fined a former caregiver $900 and ordered him to perform 900 hours of community service Wednesday for leaving three severely disabled men locked in a car outside a diner while he ate lunch.

Brian T. Fleming, 47, of Fairfield, Pa., also was placed on three years of supervised probation in lieu of a suspended nine-year prison term for the three misdemeanor counts of abuse of a vulnerable adult.

Investigators said the victims, ages 49 to 53, were left in the car for about an hour Sept. 20 as outside temperatures approached 75 degrees. The only ventilation was through the driver's window, which was about one-quarter open, prosecutors said.

Each victim had a functional age of less than 2, according to court records. Two were blind, one had Down syndrome and none could speak clearly. Although they suffered no lasting harm, they were sweating profusely when police arrived in response to a diner customer's 911 call, investigators said. One appeared to be doubled over in distress and another was banging his head repeatedly on a window, police reported.

Assistant Frederick County State's Attorney Colleen Swanson requested jail time for Fleming, arguing he had a professional and moral duty "not to lock them in a car, not to crack the window as he would a dog while he ate his lunch."

Circuit Judge Theresa Adams agreed that Fleming had treated his charges like animals but said she was convinced by his many supporters, including two Catholic priests, that his crime reflected poor judgment, not bad character.

"I believe you became desensitized and you were insensitive," Adams said.

Fleming was fired two days later by MedSource Community Services, which operates 12 homes for the developmentally disabled in Frederick County. He had been the men's live-in caregiver for eight years.

Fleming, clutching a dark brown rosary, apologized for his "misjudgment and lack of prudence." He said he loved the men as if they were his children.

"It wasn't just a job for me. It was a vocation," he said in a quavering voice. "I did it out of love in my heart."

State's Attorney J. Charles Smith expressed disappointment after the hearing that Fleming wasn't jailed for what the prosecutor called a deliberate act of neglect.

"I think the act itself speaks volumes about the type of person he really is," Smith said.


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org